Age matters if you want to rent a car in a foreign country. Everyone knows you can be denied for being too young — but you might arrive at the rental counter of a foreign airport only to be told that at 70 you're too old to drive off in the car you reserved. As part of the denial, insurance regulations may be cited.
In most foreign countries, including Canada, there's no problem. But in Ireland anyone over 75 is usually out of luck, while in Romania the cutoff age is 70. In Jamaica and Grand Cayman Island, you'll be turned down at 80. In Denmark, Greece, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Egypt some companies impose a maximum age limit while others don't.
Try to rent a car in Morocco and most agencies will demand a surcharge if you're 70-plus, and you'll be turned down at 80.
There are endless variations: In some countries, older drivers must provide their own insurance and/or proof of good health and a flawless driving record. Sometimes a local agency will rent to you when an international one won't.
So to save yourself a nasty bill when you have to arrange other transport, get the facts before you leave home. Don't count on your intended rental agency's website or reps to mention age restrictions in the country you'll be visiting. Ask specifically.
More tips for car renters abroad
- Compare rates, which may vary widely. Many U.S. car-rental agencies offer a small senior discount that may be valid at their foreign outlets.
- If you can drive a stick shift, go for it. Cars with automatic transmissions are not readily available abroad, and when they are, they're much more expensive.
- Rent a small car. In many countries, roads are narrow, turns are tight and gas is very expensive by American standards.
- If you're counting on your credit card to provide auto insurance for a rental abroad, make certain exactly what is covered before you go. Keep in mind that auto insurance you own at home covers only driving in the United States.
- Although it's not required everywhere, consider carrying an international driving permit along with your valid U.S. license. Get it from an AAA office for $15; you'll need two passport photos and a copy of your state-issued license.
Joan Rattner Heilman writes about good deals and where to find them.